Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Rest Is Yet Unwritten

It's Wednesday, and I don't have a blooming thing to post.

That is not to say I have not done any writing in the last three weeks.... oh heavens, yes! I have written. I've got oodles--scads of words!

But my creative psyche is one giant pinball game with an endless array of ramps, slides, and bumpers... So while, yes, I have all these great ideas unfolding one right on top of the other... I am unable to make cohesive progress in any one of them...

So, just for the fun of it... I'm going to post a snippet from each of the projects I'm working on, both the novels and the fanfictions! Hope you enjoy them!

The Water-Man 
(Avalible on Wattpad)
The maid began stacking dishes in the large sink as she waited for the large pot of water on the stove to boil. One of the bowls still had scraps in it from the preparation of the vegetables. Mollie hurried to the Dutch-style door at the back.

She nearly dropped the mess back on her own apron when two baleful silver eyes stared at her from the darkness.

"Oh, bless me!" She gasped. She gripped the bowl in her hands and smiled at the newcomer. "Well, if it isn't the Major! Come in, my lad. I have scraps for you!" So saying, she unlocked the door to permit entrance to a large black dog, which she welcomed with a pat on the head and a rub behind the ears. Major only sniffed at the bowl in her hands. Mollie chuckled and laid it on the floor before him. "You're a silly one, you are," she mused. "Doesn't Mr. Buxton feed you enough?"

The water began to hiss and boil, so Mollie left the dog in relative comfort and retrieved her pot of washing water.

"Mollie, where is the--oh gracious!"

Mollie whirled around as Pearl cried out, but she was only staring at Major, who regarded her with something like curiosity.

Mollie laughed. "Oh, come off, Pearl; it's only Major, from the Buxtons' house across the lane. He never bothers anyone, just comes over for scraps when he knows there's good ones to be had!" She offered the dog a bit of meat trimmed from the pig, which Major accepted gladly. "All right then, you silly cove, be off!" She gave the hound a slight push toward the door and turned back to Pearl. The fair-skinned, golden-haired maid remained as she was, plastered on the counter.

"You were looking for something?" Mollie reminded her.

Pearl blinked as Major disappeared into the night. "Hm? Oh yes, Lady Dalton would like some of the powdered confectioner's sugar for the fruit."

Mollie grabbed the round bowl from the cupboard. "Better get the sieve, too," she advised.

"Thank you," said Pearl, and dashed upstairs again.

Silence reigned in the kitchen once more. Mollie heard a shuffling sound on the stoop and smiled to herself. Turning around, she prepared to cajole the dog.

"Well, Major, back again-"

She froze.

Two dark faces leered at her.

"Oy, Tycho, wot 'ave we here?" One rumbled.

The Commander's Courage  
(Book 2 of the Writer's Tale series, based on the story I wrote)

I stared out the window at the expanse of star-speckled night sky that surrounded the ship. But it wasn't the stars that got my attention. As I watched, large, clumpy grey shapes zipped back and forth across the expanse, releasing colored bolts that flashed among the white stars.
Not only was I on an enormous space cruiser... It was also the command ship in the midst of an active battlefield!
A jolt at my ankle kept me from staring much longer.
"Come along, madam," Cher coaxed.
I could not stop picturing the floating ships. Something about the shapes seemed familiar...

"Oh!" I gasped. "Now I get—" The words died in my mouth as I nearly blew my whole secret right there to Cher. The android stared at me, servos whirring as her eyelids blinked. I faced forward again. "Never mind," I said quickly.
"Come along," Cher repeated.

I was glad the android only said one thing, because it was easier to keep my mouth shut, even though my mind spun at a million miles per hour in my head. I knew exactly where I was this time!

Several years ago, I was hunting for a new idea to write about, and somebody recommended a short-lived TV series they could only describe as a "space western." I had no idea what that meant, but I was always interested in sci-fi, and besides, I recognized a couple of actors on it. I watched the show and loved it so much that I had started creating my own version of it (also combining heavily with some other sci-fi movies I watched and books I read) in story form. I had a contingent of diverse characters that I threw onto an enormous spaceship just like this one, setting them to wandering the halls and finding different rooms, figuring out how the alien systems worked, and just talking with one another...
At which point the story fizzled and died because I couldn't think of any idea cool enough to match the things other people had already done.

I was practically floating with excitement as we ascended the ramp toward the flight deck and the command bridge. It was like coming back from a long absence and finding out where the story had gone without me.

(A Supernatural fanfic) 

I nearly fell off the bed when the knock sounded at the door. I slowly hobbled over there, making sure to do exactly as Sam had said, shoving the twenty dollars at him and grabbing the pizza and slamming the door all at once. It smelled so good that I ate an entire piece before I remembered that I had been spending most of my life eating hospice food because no one thought I cared. And I didn't. But I wasn't in hospice anymore. I was in a seedy motel room, wolfing down a ten-inch pizza, waiting for two near-perfect strangers to return with clothes and hair dye to disguise my appearance so that we could abandon my sister...
At the thought of her, my stomach clenched and I dropped the pizza slice in my hand as my head grew light and I nearly threw up. What must she be going through right now? I had no idea how far the boys had driven after we pulled away from the hospital. The memory of her, laying there on the hospice floor in a dead faint—what would she do when she awoke? What had the brothers told her about themselves? Would she trust that I was in good hands? Would she go to the police? Was I now a fugitive—or a victim? I didn't know where I was, I didn't know how to contact my sister, to let her know I was alive—I was stranded, trapped.
The word came out of my mouth before I realized it. Mary was back, running through my mind like she had at first. She did not look at me, though. She must have heard my anxious thoughts.
"I'm not trapped!" She murmured. "I can't be trapped. I am perfectly safe."
"But I can't go anywhere," I said.
She turned my head to look around the room. "Where are the boys?"
"They left to go to the store—"
"Without me?" Her presence spread, slowly edging me to the back of my own psyche. "They can't do that! It's not safe—"
We took a step forward and ended up somewhere else entirely.

(A Supernatural fanfic)

"Well, this has been a complete waste of time!" Dean grumbled sarcastically.

"We'll be all right," said Clara, "there's no need to panic."

"I'm not panicking!" Dean snapped, turning away. Two paces later, he faced Clara and his brother again. "Okay yeah, I'm panicking a little—are you freaking kidding me? We just freaking TIME TRAVELED!"

"Dean," Sam caught his brother's shoulder. "We can figure this out."
Dean shrugged off the hand and stalked away. "Yeah, well we'd better!"

Sam caught a worried expression on Clara's face. "What is it?" He asked.

"Another reason the TARDIS might have left," she began slowly, "is that it detected danger."

"Danger?" Sam didn't like the chill that came with that word. "Like what kind of danger?"

"The energy the TARDIS possesses, the reason it's able to travel inter-dimensionally, is—"

"Lemme guess," Sam winced, "quantum energy?"

Clara nodded, "That's why they've been after the Doctor and the TARDIS for years. He's practically immortal, and with the TARDIS..." Her voice trailed off.

"They'd feed off of him for years," Sam finished.

"Who knows what the Angels would be capable of, with a virtually infinite power source?"

Sam watched his brother disappear down the road through town. "So if the TARDIS radar got spooked and transported away—" he looked back at her.

Clara nodded, confirming what they feared. "They're here."

(A Percy Jackson fanfic)
"Look, Sawyer, I know it's hard, after having the dream and getting a prophecy and everything—"
"Yeah," Sawyer cut in flatly. "I mean, isn't that what it means to be chosen by the Fates?"
Percy sighed, "I guess not all the time. But hey," he stood, and Sawyer did as well, "No hard feelings, right?"
Sawyer cracked a wry grin. "Not really; actually, I came to give you this." He pulled something small and flat out of his pocket and handed it to Percy.
It was a square of plastic the size of a credit card, solid black with a golden, glittering lightning bolt emblazoned across the front. Percy's fingers tingled as he held it. It was the same sensation he had felt when carrying Zeus' lightning bolt.
"What's this?" He asked, fighting to keep his voice calm.
"It's a Bolt bus pass," Sawyer answered, smiling as if he sensed Percy's nervousness. "All Zeus' children have one. Just present it on any bus in the world, and they'll bring you wherever you want to go."
Recalling all of the long, irritating road trips his quests generally required, and the dangers that often beset them when they were stuck in a town hunting for a new ride, Percy felt an instant sensation of relief as Sawyer said the words "wherever you want to go."
He immediately pulled out his wallet and tucked the bus pass safely inside. "Thank you, Sawyer," he said, extending a hand. "This means a lot."
Sawyer shook it like a man. "No problem; I mean, just because I'm not meant to go, doesn't mean I can't help, right?" He glanced up at Percy.
The son of Poseidon nodded firmly. "Absolutely."

(A Supernatural fanfic)

Betty began subtly tugging on her cardigan. "Well, ah, we worked together, if that's what you mean. But we weren't, like, friends or anything. We had opposite shifts. She usually opens, and I usually close." Betty closed her eyes as if trying to recall a memorized story. "On that day she disappeared, I came in at one because that's when my shift starts, and nobody had seen Bella at all. We had her contact info on file, but nobody except her parents answered, and they had no idea where she went. That's when I knew—" Betty started the sentence but stopped herself with a gasp.

Dean squinted at her. "Knew what?"

"Knew that she was gone," Betty stammered.

"Betty," Sam continued with the interview, "let's talk about the week she disappeared. Do you remember if she had been acting strangely at all?"

Betty blinked, as bright red splotches appeared on her cheeks. "No, not really..."

"Did you ever see anything out of place around here?" Dean suggested. "Maybe some strange objects or symbols—"

"Symbols?" Betty shrieked, clutching the counter so hard that her knuckles were white. "N-no, I never saw anything like—"

"How about smells?" Sam wondered where the fear was coming from. What was innocent, dowdy Betty trying to hide? "Anything like rotten eggs, or cinnamon?"

Betty was visibly trembling now. "N-no," she stammered. "I didn't—that wasn't—" Suddenly her face twisted into an ugly grimace and she burst into tears.

"I DID IT!" she screamed. "IT WAS ME! IT'S ALL MY FAULT!"

So there you have it... Each one is a ton of fun, and I cannot wait to see what others think of them--but each one vying for my undivided attention is resulting in my inability to pursue any of them! What to do? Hopefully by next week I will have a new excerpt from "Commander's Courage." Till then... Phew! I have my work cut out for me!

How about you? Are you a distracted writer? What solutions have you tried, to be more consistent about writing? Share them in the comments! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Author Interview: Sean Gallagher

Hello and welcome to the very first Author Interview on The Upstream Writer! Today I am introducing Sean Gallagher, an aspiring author I met at the Rose City ComicCon in Portland.

This is pretty much how I met Sean...
Mad props for personal commitment!
Tell us a little about yourself; When did you first decide to become a writer?

I have always loved reading fiction and have read many hundreds of books in my life, but I didn’t get the idea to write my own story until late summer of 1998. The Y2K craze was already in full swing and I thought about how people were worried about the end of the world back around the turn of the first millennium. That gave me the idea of how I could write a story about something cataclysmic without truly being the end of the world. I’d recently been reading a lot of alternate history and time travel type stories and it spurred my idea of marrying my love of epic fantasy, such as Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time, with my new love of alternate history. So the idea for Mysts of Mythos slowly began to germinate and I spent the next 15 years researching that era of history so the historical parts of my story would be true to real history.

The book you want to publish is called Mysts of Mythos. What is it about?

The concept comes from the theory of Infinite worlds. I wanted to tell an epic fantasy tale but with real historical people. But I am a science nerd so I had to come up with some reason that was at least scientifically plausible. Obviously magic is not real, but quantum physics allows for other universes that may have different rules than our universe has. That was the germ of my idea.

My framework is built on the idea that some people throughout history have been able to see through the veil between worlds. Their visions become the source of all of our myths and legends. One day the veil becomes thin, represented as a blanket of mist covering the world, and opens pathways between our world and those other worlds. Creatures that are the basis of our legends come through and become trapped here when the veil goes back to normal. In the meantime our natural laws have been changed, coming more in line with some of the worlds we were temporarily linked to, allowing real magic to work. Some people, who are at an age where their bodies are already going through massive change and are open to more, become endowed with new mystical abilities. In some cases they will be able to manipulate magic through the force of their will or belief in God. Others will have already existent natural abilities enhanced to supernatural levels. My four main characters will be some of those young folk with new powers.

How long have you been working on it?

I started buying history books about the [eleventh century] back in 1998. My focus has been refining ever since. After years of coming up with stories about different characters and situations ranging from a young farm boy in the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire to one of Leif Ericsson’s followers in their wintering camp in Newfoundland, I decided I had to narrow my story to something more manageable. I thought England would have the most broad based appeal so that’s where I put my energy and began to write in earnest in January of 2012.

Why do you think people would want to read it? What is its most compelling quality?

I am writing what I believe to be an excellent epic fantasy. But it is also a good historical fiction. It will have appeal to people who enjoy action adventure as well as educational writing. I’ll tell engaging stories about people whom you want to like, going through trials that will strain their abilities, making you care for them and bringing you a satisfying conclusion. Along the way I hope to educate the people who enjoy action adventure by exposing them to what medieval people ate, what they wore, how they fought, what their beliefs were, etc. Additionally I hope to give the people who enjoy historical fiction a reason to not turn up their noses at fantasy novels. Anyone who enjoys either fantasy or historical fiction should be able to enjoy my work.

Publishing is long and hard, with many decisions to make and a lot of potential for things to go very wrong--but you seem to have discovered a unique publishing opportunity for your book; can you tell us more about that?

I am in the Inkshares Nerdist contest. My book can be found at:

I need pre-orders to win publication. Normally a pre-order on Inkshares would cost $9.99, but if you have never been to Inkshares before they give you a credit of $5 for registering your account, so supporting my book would only cost you $4.99. If I don’t win publication, it doesn’t cost you anything at all, but if I do, you would know that you had a direct hand in getting a book published. If I can get into the top five, in pre-orders from individual readers, by Midnight of September 30th I win publication. As it stands right now fifth place has 409 readers and I have 51. That sounds like a lot at first, but it only a tiny fraction of people who read fantasy novels, much less being a tiny fraction of people who read at all. I only need to get in front of the right group of people who are interested in new fantasy and I can get those orders easily. First place is only 563 readers so it wouldn’t take me much more to get all the way to the top.

September 30 isn't that far away. I just checked the site you mentioned, and it had a meter that mentioned you still had "50 days left", which would put it sometime in early November. Is the September deadline merely for this special contest, but you still have a month or so to get published, or is all hope lost in three days?

Inkshares has a normal window of funding of 90 days. The contest is only 45 days however. So in three days my chances to win publication easily go away, but all hope is not lost for publication. It just gets more challenging. [To get a publishing deal through the contest], I have to get about 400 [more] readers to pre-order by the 30th. If that doesn’t happen the goal switches to Inkshares’ more standard amount which is 750 copies of the book sold (for publication of the e-book) or 1000 copies (or publication of a printed version in addition to the e-book). That’s a lot more books to sell, but I get the longer window to do it in.

Have you written anything else?

I have written a lot of small bits of fiction, mostly for my own enjoyment, and none with the potential for novelization. This is the story I want to tell. If this doesn’t work then I continue to write my own stories that perhaps no one will read but my friends, and that’s okay with me. But I hope for more of course. I think this is a great story and I would love to see it delivered in more types of media than just the bound and printed page.

Would you consider other means of publication, such as self-publication, or even sharing your stories on a blog or sites Wattpad, perhaps?

I have been publishing snippets on my blog, Instagram, and tumblr already. Once the contest is done I will move on to working the Inkshares route for the remainder of the goal window. If that doesn’t work I will re-focus myself on finishing the book itself (I have slowed down quite a bit trying to do self-promotion). Once the book is complete I will submit to publishers and agents and give them a short window of time before I move on to self-publication of an e-book. After that I’ll see how sales go and if there is a demand for a print version. I’m open to serialization via a couple of various methods.

Last question: What is the best piece of advice you have received in regards to your writing?

Just this: If you have a story to tell, don’t let anything stop you from telling it. No one knows who may enjoy your story until you get it printed. 

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Sean, and I wish you the best of luck in your publication journey!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #13

Suggested by: Kelly Blanchard

The List:
Lightning Harvesters
Fields of Rhedan
Before the End of Eldkim
An hourglass
*Image included

The Result:
"Help Wanted"

It was quite possibly the most straightforward ad I had ever seen.
"HARVESTERS NEEDED" it read. "Report to the Fields of Rhedan before the End of Eldkim."

Not that I knew where the thing was, or when the deadline actually occurred. This was Montana, after all, not some high-fantasy construct!
Being a poor college student in a town with more poor college students than employment opportunities, I decided to take it. I snapped a photo of the QR code in the corner of the poster. Instantly, my Maps app booted up, showing me a blue pathway following the road out of the city. Siri's bland voice informed me, "Starting route to the Fields of Rhedan", though she pronounced it to rhyme with "ridden." The heck? I glanced around, but nobody on the sidewalk paused to give me or the help-wanted poster a second glance. I sighed and headed for my beat-up, hand-me-down Jetta.
"Head north on 12th Avenue," the digital voice instructed, "then turn left."
I followed the directions robotically.
"In a quarter mile, turn left."
"In three-point-six miles, take a slight right."
"Continue on this road."

At this point I had no idea where I was anymore. Clouds gathered overhead, darkening the sky. Still, the app had no intention of indicating my proximity to the destination. At the top of the screen, where it usually listed an arrival time, there was only a small symbol. I was in the middle of nowhere by now, lights shining uselessly in the darkness, so I did not think twice about just pulling off to get a better look at just what I was attempting to follow. I peered at the screen.

The symbol was shaped like a tiny hourglass. I tapped it.
I jumped as my engine revved—and my car started to roll forward on its own! The steering wheel turned back toward the road and the possessed vehicle glided onward, while I frantically pulled knobs and flipped switches to find out what the heck was going on. I tried everything short of pulling the keys out of the ignition. There wasn't a map on my phone anymore, just the hourglass taking up the whole screen, its contents trickling down as the car drove itself. I finally gave in and sat stiffly in the seat, watching the wide Montana plains (what I could see of them in this light) coast by my windows.
My car climbed and plunged over rolling hills, gathering speed until I could see something like an ethereal dust flickering by the roadside. The dust gathered, thickened and swirled till I could see a great big mass of it, piled in the middle of the road just in front of me. My car didn't even slow down a little as I careened right toward it. I threw up my hands on instinct as the very fabric of reality seemed to split down the middle and the poor Jetta skidded right through the tear.

Just like that, it was daylight and the land was flat enough to see from one edge to the other. As the last grains of digital sand landed in the bottom of the hourglass, my car rolled to a stop. I just about jumped out of my skin as Siri's voice announced, "You have arrived at your destination."

The only structures for miles around were a large barn of some sort, and a quaint little farmhouse, complete with a white picket railing around the porch. The doors of my car unlocked by themselves, and I could finally exit the vehicle, something I had never been so desperate to do before.

As soon as I closed the door behind me, an elderly man and woman appeared on the porch. They smiled at me and waved. The old man wore a red plaid shirt and well-worn jeans. The woman wore a plain white apron over her floral-print dress. In other words, they looked relatively normal. Well, except for the twenty-foot metal poles they carried.

The man approached me first. His wrinkles shifted as he smiled.
"You're just in time," he said. "Eldkim is almost over." He thrust a pole into my hand. "Come with me!"
The woman nodded at me pleasantly as we fell into step behind the man.

We headed for an open field at some distance from the house. This field had a tall bank of storm clouds gathered over it, looking strangely deliberate and out-of-place in this sunny, calm environment. The cloud fairly growled with thunder. I could see pulses of lightning flashing within it. I suddenly recalled the metal pole in my hand.
"Um, excuse me, sir?" I called over the roar of the thunder.
"The name's Devon!" He called back.
"Devon!" I yelled as we were now standing under the cloud bank with tall metal lightning rods. "What exactly is this job?"
Devon whirled around at me in surprise. "You don't know?"

There was a crack behind me like a gunshot, and I flinched and turned to see.
The old woman had her rod extended toward the sky—and a lightning bolt very securely attached at the end! Still smiling pleasantly, she pulled and tugged like a fisherman reeling a large bass, until I saw the bolt actually detach from the cloud. She then thrust the end of the lightning rod into a glass jar resting on the ground, and the bolt skittered inside, where she trapped it with the lid of the jar.

I turned to where Devon held three such jars, all full of flickering, dancing lightning. He carefully set them in a wheelbarrow with others like them.
"We harvest the lightning," he said. "It's what gives electricity to the rest of the city! Now hurry," he nodded to the rod in my hand. "We don't have much time."

He pointed over my head, where a billow pulsed with a gentle glow. Following his lead, I raised the rod toward the cloud. The tip pierced the fluffy, grey section, and I felt the snapping crackle of a lightning bolt at the end.
"Pull!" Devon roared, and I jerked back on the rod.

The flaring crackle of light securely trapped the end of my rod, and I had to hold on tight as the jagged bolt nearly twisted the rod out of my hands!

"Don't let go!" Devon called, setting a jar on the ground at my feet.

As I had seen Devon's wife do, I tugged the end of the rod far enough to reach into the jar. The minute it touched down, I yelped as I watched the lightning bolt shimmy over my hands and into the jar. Devon clapped the lid on and looked up at my stunned expression. The flash of lightning seemed to spark in his eyes as he winked.

"Not bad for your first day on the job," he said. "Congratulations, you're hired."

Previously in This Series:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Series: "Day of Reckoning" Chapter 2 Part 3

Previously: Chapter 2 <Part 1> <Part 2>

Barmier pulled the hovercraft right up against the front tunnel into the mansion, so that Laurel would have the most cover as she slipped inside comfortably attired in her woods-Elf garb, but carrying one of Sister Miligred's outfits in a carpetbag—just in case.
Carsius checked the comm system.
"This is Carsius," echoed in every ear. "Sound off to make sure I can hear you. Barmier?"
"I'm in position."
"Right behind you, Carsius—literally!"
A slight smacking noise.
"Awwright, jeez!" There was a retching sound, like he'd spit out a mouthful of something. "I'm getting on the craft now."
Carsius sighed. "That's no way to behave, soldier!" he reprimanded Atis sternly, "A good operative must always be available, and ready to perform his duties fully."
"Whatever you say, Commander," Atis replied.
"And Atis? Don't make me call you twice."
"Yes sir."
"All right, everybody, we're a go! Barmier, I'll be giving you directions from up here. Take the craft out nice and easy."

Barmier pulled out onto the street and began making his way through the milling crowd.
"Boy," Laurel remarked, peeking out through the tinted windows of the hovercraft, "there sure are a lot of people out here."

"Say, Carsius," Augustus spoke up, "Does it look like a lot of people are headed the same direction?"

"Must be a Sabbath day," Carsius observed.

"Perfect!" Atis cut in, "That means more people we'll be able to rescue!"

"Keep your eyes out for soldiers," Carsius warned, but already it looked like it would be too late.

A contingent of guards marched toward the hovercraft. Their captain waved to get Barmier's attention.
"Hold!" he commanded.
"Oh snap," Atis muttered into his comm, "we're busted."

"Hold your positions, everyone," Carsius cautioned, "Let's not—"
He broke off, and everyone heard the sounds of yelling.

"Augustus!" Carsius barked, "We've been spotted. Let's split up! We'll meet back at the Theoversity."
"Roger that," Augustus replied.

"Great," Laurel muttered to herself as she watched the guards surround the hovercraft suspiciously, "Now what am I going to do?"

"Driver," the guard was saying, "Where are you taking this hovercraft?"

Barmier almost did not hear him over the thoughts of his knives in their sheaths under his cloak.
"I'm...I'm taking Her Honor—"

"What?" the captain barked. "Speak up man, don't mumble like a drunkard! Who is in that carriage? Surely it isn't Sister Miligred!"
For some reason all the guards laughed.

"And why wouldn't it be?" Atis suddenly burst out, nettled by the behavior of the guards, "We are her loyal servants, and we are bringing her to the service for the Sabbath!"

The guard sneered at Atis. "Silence, page! Is that how you address a superior?"

"Atis," Laurel cut in desperately, "Don't—"

Atis was beyond listening, "No, soldier, it's not how I address a superior officer!"

"—antagonize him," Laurel finished weakly.

The captain raised his hand. Laurel noticed that the wyrts kept people from loitering, moving them from one place to the next. At least they weren't attracting a crowd.
"In the name of the Council," the captain ordered, "Every person must step away from the vehicle!"
"Atis," Laurel tried to get his attention before he started mouthing off, "Do as he says."

"Please?" he whispered back, "I can take half of them, and leave the rest for Barmy!"

"Don't you dare!" Laurel cried.

Atis and Barmier had no choice. They stepped down from the hovercraft.
"Milady," the captain called, reaching for the door, "I'm afraid I must ask—"
"Don't let him see me!" Laurel cried.

Suddenly, the captain stepped back with a cry.
"What's happening?" Laurel felt blind as all she had to see were the small tinted windows.

Atis and Barmier could only watch as a large brown bird dive-bombed the soldiers.
"What is it?" the men screamed. Such an animal had never been seen on Eillumaeia before. "It has claws! Watch out for the beak!"
"Call it off!" the captain roared, backing away from the hovercraft. "Call your beast off!"

Atis rather enjoyed watching this strange bird driving the soldiers away.
"I would," he said, climbing back onto his seat, "but it's not mine."

The soldiers had left a wide area around the craft, but it was still too crowded to move forward.
Scander (With Sverana)
A high whistle split the air. The bird responded immediately, flying to the extended arm of his master: a young boy of no more than seventeen, dressed in simple woodsman garb and carrying a bright sword. He grinned at the retreating soldiers, and walked a full circle around the hovercraft, giving Barmier enough room to start it up and begin moving again.

Atis hoisted the boy up next to him.
"Nice bird," he remarked.
The boy looked to be a younger version of Atis himself. He sneered, "She's not just a bird!" he stroked his pet's feathers. "She's a hawk and her name's Sverana."
Atis snorted, "Hock, then; it's the first one I've seen. My name is Atis; what do they call you, boy?"

The stranger puffed his chest out, "My name is Scanderilian Hokron, a knight of Unigivla, and don't you forget it!"

Atis shook his head, "That name's so long I've forgotten it already. Would you mind repeating it again?"
"Scanderilian Hokron."

"Ah, see? I missed it again. Scatter-what?"


"Scatterbrainian Hawking?"


"Can I call you Scandy?"


"Oy, ladies!" Augustus' voice came over the commlink. "Quit fighting and get down to help Laurel into the Palanquin."

"For your information," Scanderilian announced as he swung his lanky body down to the ground, "Most people call me Scander."

"Well okay Scamper, help the lady," Atis could not resist needling.
Scander clenched his fists, and no doubt he would have laid into Atis then and there—had not a large hand dragged him away.
Scander found himself face to face (actually it was more like face-to-chest) with a far more imposing soldier, obviously a commander. Sverana flew away from her master and alighted on a nearby pillar to watch.
"Listen, kid--" he began.
Scander twisted under his grasp, "I'm not a kid!" he protested.
Carsius did not relax his grip. "I don't care. I don't know what you're doing here—"

"I came to help!" Scander pointed to the Palanquin containing Laurel, "She sent out the signal for help!"

"It may have been her location, but trust me, I was with her at the time, and I sent out the signal. Now, we have a plan in motion—"

"Did you plan to get caught by the guards, then?" Scander chortled, but Carsius cut it short with a rough shake of his collar.

"Stop interrupting! If you hadn't been so late in coming, perhaps there would be something for you to do, but at this stage, the only thing for you to do is—"

"Stay outside and watch the carriage," Scander sighed, "I know, I know."

Carsius grinned and released him. His eyes lost none of their hardness.
"Wrong," he stated, "You're coming inside with us, but," he raised a finger as Scander was about to whistle for his hawk. "The bird stays outside—"


"—and you stick with me like pitch on a log—"

"Really? Oh great!"


"You've gotta be—" Scander's attitude melted under the glare Carsius gave him. He hung his head, "Yes, sir."

"Ready, Carsius?" Augustus called. Barmier and Atis were already stationed around the Palanquin. There was one spot at the rear on the left available for Carsius. He took it, satisfied with the way Scander positioned himself as close as possible to his side.
"Ready," Carsius announced to Atis, directly in front of him.

They proceeded inside. A very helpful Friar, anxious to please the Council Brethren, willingly gave Sister Miligred access to the belfry, and promised that the bells would not be rung until she had finished what he called "the ritual." What would he have thought, had he known that there was not one person out of the six standing before him who had the slightest idea what the ritual involved, or why it was necessary?
By and by, the team brought the Palanquin as far into the narrow tower as they dared, and at last, Laurel said, "This is high enough."

There was so much althraxine already in her system that she could sense when the competing influences cleared enough for her to get the right one. She remained inside the Palanquin to do her work. The rest waited outside, Carsius with a stylus of analthraxine at the ready.

We're here for you, Laurel, he thought. Just hold together!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Commander's Courage" Excerpt: An Alliian Encounter

"Planet of origin: Allii, located in the Soleran system..."

"What seems to be the trouble, gentlemen?" The dry, androgynous voice preceded the approach of a female officer wearing a grey uniform similar to the ones worn by the guards, with the exception that hers bore a different insignia on it. Her pale hair was smoothed back against her scalp so tightly that it almost blended into her skin. Her dark eyes seemed weirdly shaped in her face as she inspected me.

"It looks alien to me," she muttered.

Was she saying I looked like an alien? I wanted to protest, to point out that I was every bit as human as the rest of them, but I couldn't move.

Meanwhile, she went on. "Who are you? What is your home planet? Which Federation do you serve? Who is your principal Chief Quadrant Official? Where is your identification implant?"

One of the officers pointed something that looked like a short black flashlight at me, and when he activated it, a high-pitched squeal sounded.
"Subject has no implants at all, Sir," he answered.

The woman scowled fiercely. "No implants? Must be a farce, then! Arrest her!"

"Captain Gayle, sir," another soldier piped up, "we cannot comply with your orders to arrest someone without due cause."

The captain glared at him. "Fine; she stowed away on the ship, so that is suspicious. Confine her to the prison ward—"

Another soldier coughed behind me. I heard the leather of his armor squeak as he raised his hand.
Captain Gayle sighed. "What is it?"

"Unidentified persons cannot be detained during active wartime without proper medical examination—"

"Fine!" The captain barked, waving her hand at me. "Take her to the medical bay and tell Dr. Igorax I want the full treatment: decontamination, inoculation, examination—and I will send Cher down to bring her to the Commander."
The entire contingent saluted. "Yes, sir!"

"Dumb hitchhikers; they always get off easy." Captain Gayle turned heel and walked away. Two soldiers grabbed my elbows and turned me around to face the long walkway. If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have gasped.

Clear tunnels enclosing steel walkways stretched this way and that above and below us. Outside the tubes, small robots of various shapes and colors (mostly white and silver) wove their way around the main body of the enormous ship. By the time I was able to wrap my head around this, we came to a stop before a vertical silver tube. One of the soldiers produced a thin metal wafer, which he waved before the scanner. The door slid open with a hydraulic hiss, and they pushed me inside, the security-bot holding me inert still close at my heels. The door closed in front of me, and I completely lost all sense of gravity for about ten seconds. When I felt weight again, I came to rest on my back, not my feet. The door opened, and there were soldiers standing over me as I lay inside the tube. I still had no voluntary control, but my body sat up and climbed out under the watchful silver eyes of the soldiers' guns. Whatever war these people were fighting, it certainly had everybody on edge. I wondered who they might be fighting, since a human stranger invited such suspicion.

The doors to the medical bay opened and a man in a white lab coat emerged.
"What is it?" He asked. I admit, I kind of liked his voice. It had a warm, puffy sound to it, after the sharp, metallic grating of the soldiers' voices.
"Stowaway alien discovered on the fourth level, Doctor," the soldier on my left explained. "Captain Gayle requests a full and thorough examination."
"Alien, huh?" Doctor Igorax echoed. "I'll be the judge of that." He paused a moment. "Why won't she turn?" He asked.

The soldier coughed.
"Oh for Skather's sake!" cried the doctor. "Is that really necessary, officer?"

"Subject must be restrained until interrogated by the commander."

"Well," Dr. Igorax sighed, "if you insist."

I heard the shuffle of shoes, and the doctor came into view. My breath caught in my throat as the scream I wanted to give passed through inert vocal chords. Three eyes blinked at me from the upper part of the man's face! He squinted with two of them, but I couldn't take my eyes off the third eye, right there in the middle of his forehead.

"A bit strange-looking, wouldn't you say?" Dr. Igorax mused—which was ironic, to say the least!

"Coming through!"

The rumble of wheels interrupted us. The soldiers had to yank me off to the side as a blood-smeared gurney rolled toward the doors. The others could turn away, but I got an eyeful of the poor soul on his way to the ward: his right arm bent in a place above the elbow, and his right leg ended just above the ankle. His face had been torn open on the side, and blood streaked over a strange symbol tattooed on his neck.
Nobody moved till the doors closed behind the medic.

Dr. Igorax scowled. "Those abominable Drothikans! How long must the massacres continue?" His body was practically shaking with outrage.

The soldier fidgeted. "Look, Doc, would you just get on with your business so we can get on with ours?"
The three-eyed face swung our way again. "Hmm? Oh, yes, all right." He took my hand and pulled me toward the doors of the medical bay. "Come along, my dear."

I shuddered. His skin felt cold and flabby against mine, and he had six fingers! And everyone thought I was the alien, here?

Dr. Igorax left me in the care of two "nurses" who looked more like automated mannequins.

"Please hold still," they instructed pleasantly, grabbing hold of my clothes. I smelled burning fabric, and almost immediately my jeans and tee-shirt fell away from my body, unraveled completely at the seams. One nurse swept up the clothes and carried them away, while the other tipped her head back and forth like a bobble doll and carefully guided a stark-white gown onto my inert body.
"Decontamination gown activated," she said as she fastened it behind me.

I felt a tingling sensation that began at my neck and spread to the furthest extremities of my body. It was like every cell of my body was anticipating something painful, like the feeling you get just before a burn.
The burn never came, though. Just when I was getting weary of the anticipation and ready to resign myself to the burning, it stopped, and the nurse bobbled her head again.
"Decontamination complete. Proceed to examination room."

She turned and began walking away from me, down the narrow hallway to the next ward. The security-bot at my feet slowly rolled after the robot woman, allowing me to follow her.

Inside, Dr. Igorax waited next to a long table with arms and a headrest. He took my hands and guides me over to the table. "Lie here, please," he said, arranging my body over the table.
I heard hissing and clicking and felt pressure on my wrists, ankles, and forehead. I could see nothing in my periphery, but the ceiling seemed to be coated in a reflective substance, and I could make out restraint bands holding me in place.

The three-eyed doctor produced a glowing implement that emitted a high whine like a dentist's drill.
"Let's begin," he stated.

With the help of his two robotic assistants, Dr. Igorax commenced a thorough examination of my entire body: skin samples, tissue samples, fluid and hair samples. He measured everything, from my total weight and body mass, to the circumference of each individual finger and toe. None of it was particularly painful, but it wasn't comfortable, either.

Partway through, one of the nurses finished running the DNA test.
"Subject is a member of species Homo sapiens," she announced. "Planet of origin: Allii, located in the Soleran System." A planetary map projected overhead, showing the familiar view of my own solar system, zooming in on the planet I knew as Earth. They called it Allii.
Dr. Igorax snorted, "Well, I guess that makes you Alliian, after all! Don't get many of those anymore; not since..." Dr. Igorax sighed and patted my shoulder. "But you probably don't like to talk about it much, hey? Two millennia is too soon, they say."

The way he spoke made me wonder if Earth existed anymore; and if not, how far in the future was this? Did people not use the term "human" anymore? Why not?
A shooting pain in my neck distracted me from my musings. Dr. Igorax withdrew something that looked like a small stapler.
"Identification chip implanted," he announced. "Everything with the Alliian is in order."

"Attention, Doctor," the nurse responded. "Assistant Cher is waiting to collect the subject."
Dr. Igorax nodded. "Time to meet the Commander!" He said cheerily.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #12

Suggested by: Amy Hopkins

The List:
-the era of Technicolor
-a chainsaw

The Result:
"No Place Like Home"

On a little farm in Wichita, a middle-aged woman enjoyed a quiet, hazy afternoon from the comfort of her porch. The weather had been prime of late, and the storm season was coming, so these opportunities should be treasured as long as they lasted.
Emily Brown sighed to herself as she watched the fat yellow bees buzzing around her baskets overflowing with brilliant fuchsia. Bright orange and yellow zinnias beckoned from the center of the arrangement, nodding in the light breeze. The really was no place like their lovely little farmhouse. Televisions and movies introducing this newfangled phenomenon dubbed “Technicolor” had nothing on the vivid hues of real life! She could see the green grass of the front yard; off to the left, the small patch of volunteer wheat that had managed to sprout this year. It was hard work to maintain, but the young newlyweds of Wichita didn’t move out here, “eighteen miles from anywhere” to sit on their laurels and have everything delivered to their front door!

Just then, a figure emerged from the wheat. Emily waved to her husband, Henry as he came up from working in the fields. She laughed to see his dark curls all full of hay. His long, lanky frame was gaunt enough for a specter on a good day; the additional vegetation he sported made him look nearly like a scarecrow.
He grinned shyly when she let out a hearty laugh for his benefit.
“What do you find so funny, Em?” He ambled toward the porch as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
“Nothing at all, Hank,” she replied, throwing her arms around his neck and knocking out a few straws as she did so. “Or if you like, I was laughing at the thought of what the crows’ faces must have looked like when they saw a big, living scarecrow lumbering through their breakfast.”
Henry shook his head, sending chaff to be carried by the warm summer breeze. “A man’s gotta do something to keep those flying, thieving monkeys out of our crops!”
“My hero!” and Emily laughed again.
Henry left his wife with a kiss and moved into the house.
It was a small two-story farmhouse, with a kitchen and dining room on one side of the ground floor, and the rest devoted to a spacious sitting room. In this room, Henry paused, sinking onto the sofa with a sigh.
“Ah, that feels better,” he murmured. The stately wooden radio caught his attention. He reached over to the tuning dial.
“Say, Ems,” he asked as she came in behind him, “Have you heard the latest from the BBC yet?”
“No, I haven’t touched the radio all day,” Emily replied.
She joined her husband on the sofa as the clipped accent warbled through the speakers.

“… just in, passengers on an aeroplane flight from Lisbon, en route to London, shot down by German military. This is the state and the nature of Hitler’s ‘total war,’ ladies and gentlemen: a civilian aeroplane, in a non-combat zone, completely destroyed… Innocent lives lost, bearing the brunt of German brutality…”

As quickly as he had turned it on, Henry switched the radio off again. Emily cuddled against his shoulder even closer.
“So awful,” she murmured. “Hitler must be a horrible, horrible man for letting such things happen!”
Henry wrapped his arms around her curled-up body. “I’m just glad I married you and moved out to Kansas to be a homesteader right at the perfect time. Saved me from having to go down to the nearest USO. Now, nobody can bother us, not even the government.”
Emily gave him a little shove. “You coward,” she chided softly. “I always thought you were as brave as a lion! What would you risk to keep me safe?” She stuck her lip out in a pout as her pretty blue eyes pegged him accusingly.
He held her gaze as he responded, “That’s just it; I care so much about keeping you safe that I never wanted to leave your side, not for a day, not for a moment. Giving one’s life for one’s country is one thing; offering myself as a human shield, should any danger threaten you, my darling—well, that is a horse of a different color entirely.”

Emily only just noticed that it was getting almost too dark to see—but according to the grandfather clock standing next to the wall, it was only three in the afternoon. She glanced outside.
“Speaking of a different color…” she muttered.

The world outside seemed bathed in a brilliant green hue. It was as if the Technicolor television had leaked out into the real world, and somehow the colors weren’t quite what they should have been. The light summer breeze had quickened into gale-force winds, and the shutters flapped hard against the latches holding them open.

Henry and Emily raced around, pulling shutters closed and latching them.
Emily grabbed the last pair and slid the window shut after them, but something at the edge of the wide, green plain caught her attention.
“Henry… what is it?” she asked.

The clouds seemed to take on a life of their own. They danced and shifted, building and swirling and reaching down in a long column. A streak of lightning obscured their view, and the immediate report of thunder cracked like a cannon standing right beside the house. When Henry and Emily looked again, an enormous twister had formed overhead, a dark, swirling mass of cloud that seemed as if the storm was trying to inhale the ground beneath it.
Emily felt Henry’s grip on her shoulder tighten.

“Get to the storm cellar, Ems,” he said quickly, shoving her toward the door.
In that instant, the door suddenly blasted open, and a powerful wind swept into the house, knocking dishes off the walls and sending the knickknacks flying from their shelves. Emily nearly tumbled backward at the velocity of the air heading for her. She cringed and threw an arm around her face in terror.
“Henry!” she squealed. “Henry!”
She felt his hand grasp hers, and the two made for the front door again.
A flash and a bang, and suddenly Henry was pulling her backwards as branches scratched at her outstretched hands. Emily clutched at him and tried to see what had happened.
An enormous tree had fallen right onto their porch. The mass of foliage completely blocked the front of the house—which had been their only route to safety. Their storm cellar was safely hemmed in by concrete, situated right on the edge of the foundation—but what good was it if they couldn’t reach it?
Emily’s knees buckled and Henry gently guided her into a sitting position. They cowered on the floor, listening to the ominous roar of the massive tornado getting closer and closer, watching as one by one the windows shattered. Soon the glass would be spraying right toward them…

A roar of a quite different sort soon interjected itself in the midst of the roar of the tornado. The Browns could only stare in astonishment as the thick, weathered blade of a chainsaw protruded from the mass of branches. A few more thrusts and jabs, and a pair of hands poked through, parting the bracken to allow the appearance of a head, followed by the rest of a body. A lithe young woman wearing sturdy trousers and a leather jacket scrambled into the house. Her brown hair was swept back into a ponytail, and her brown eyes were ablaze with a determined and fearless light. She nodded to the traumatized couple.
“Looks like you folks could use a hand getting to the cellar!” she said brightly.
“Who are you?” Henry demanded.
The young woman smiled. “They call us storm-chasers, see. People like me read the sky like most people read the newspaper; it tells us what’s coming. We watch the wind like most people watch the moving pictures; we get to know what different signs mean and watch what the weather does. Now I had word of a tornado that was due here, so I happened to be watching when you two went into the house, and when the storm kicked up and you hadn’t come out, and then the tree fell—well, I figured you might be needing my help.” She picked up her compact, portable chainsaw and started it up again. “Care to follow me?”
Emily and Henry Brown stood up and instinctively huddled close to this strange, dauntless woman.
“What’s your name?” Emily asked in a quavering voice.
The woman smiled at her. “I’m called Dorothy,” she said. “Stick with me, and we’ll make it through all right.”

Previously in This Series:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Series: "Day of Reckoning" Chapter 2 Part 2


Previously: Chapter 2 <Part 1>

Carsius called the room to order.
"Now, I know that most of us have been here through the initial failures, so this last success has likely gone to a few heads," he glanced pointedly at Augustus and Gorrmunsa.
"On the other hand," he continued, "a few of our number have only been here for the successful strike, and have not even had time to settle in and be welcomed properly." He nodded toward Barmier and Atis, but Atis was not paying attention, his head bowed in deep concentration over his hands until Barmier jogged him with his elbow.

"Whoops!" Atis' head came up in alarm as a small contraption flew from his grasp and skidded across the table, coming to rest in front of Carsius. Renata frowned as she recognized the hairpins she had been unable to find that morning, in addition to some odds and ends necessary to the function of a few kitchen appliances. Carsius, ascertaining that the device was unfinished and therefore harmless, wordlessly swept it from the table and into the pocket of his cloak.

"I offer the apologies of the entire team to you newcomers, if we have been anything less than inviting to you. I assure you that your skills are vital to this team, and we will do what we can to be sure you have a place in thus house as well as on this team." Another hard glance at Augustus, who sat forward.

"Hey!" he snapped, "It's not my fault! I'm not about to share my room with someone who knows fourteen ways to trammel me in my bed while I sleep!"

Atis sniggered, "Jealous much?"

Laurel rose out of her chair and glared at the men. "If you all are so wise, answer me this: what is it that makes the Elitinati so strong? Why can we not pick off the stragglers from the outside, why must we aim for the very heart to defeat them? It is because they are unified in purpose. They not only have a structure of authority, but they have effectively removed the free will of an entire nation with these wyrts. If we are fighting amongst ourselves, how then can we hope to have any strength or equipment left to fight the real enemy! We are a single unit, with a single goal. The least we can do is work together to get it done properly!"

One could hear a pin drop in the silence.
Laurel resumed her seat and waved for Carsius to continue.
He cleared his throat. "Right, now—"

Carsius spread out a map of Eillumaeia on the table. The holographic, three-dimensional image rose, projected several inches from the surface of the parchment.
"We'll do this just like last time. Deej, what's the next Pillar?"

"That would be the Spirituality pillar, Commander," the Ewok replied.

"Which means we will be striking at what building?"

"The Theoversities would be my guess," Augustus offered.

Carsius nodded. "We are here," he tapped the image of Sister Miligred's mansion and it changed from purple to blue, "and the nearest Theoversity is here," a blue laser-line traced around the wide, winding avenues of the city until it reached the replica of a building that looked like a combination of a cathedral, a temple, and a basilica, "Roughly ten miles away."

"Ten miles!" Laurel cried, "If you think I'm going to walk all the way there in that embalming-sheet of a dress, you have another think coming!"

"What would you do instead?" Carsius asked her.

"The hovercraft," Laurel replied after a short pause, "The one I came in. It's hers, anyway, and if I were completely enclosed, I would not have to be disguised at all!"

Carsius nodded his approval. "At least," he pointed out, "not until you reach the Theoversity and must disembark to enter it."
Laurel frowned, but she had to own he was right.

"To continue," Carsius went on, "the highest accessible point in the Theoversity is here," he touched the area and a red spot appeared at the tip of one of the turrets, "in the belfry."
"That's a long ways up there," Renata murmured.

"Here's how I see it happening," Carsius stated, "Laurel goes to the Theoversity in a hovercraft—"

"Can I drive?" Atis piped up.

Carsius shook his head, "No, I think footman would better suit you. Barmier can drive the hovercraft."
The dark man grunted in assent.

"Meanwhile, Augustus and I will be your spotters, following along the rooftops in case anything goes wrong."
Why does he behave as if he expects it to? Laurel wondered, but before she had a chance to ask, Renata inquired, "What will I be doing?"

"You, Gorrmunsa and Deej will meanwhile find a way to get to here," he pointed to an area at the base of the building, "probably from one of the vents around here. No doubt you can all do it without being seen. This area is the central unit for the air duct system. That is where you'll be pumping the analthraxine vapor."
Laurel smiled hopefully, "I get in, turn the influence, and there's another Pillar toppled!"

Carsius smiled, but it was grim, "That's the plan, anyway." He looked up, "We start at dawn tomorrow. You all are dismissed."

Barmier spent all day fine-tuning the hovercraft. Deej, Gorrmunsa and Renata made canisters of analthraxine to hook into the ventilation system.

Late that night, Laurel found herself wide awake out of a deep sleep for no apparent reason—
Until she saw the silver eyes gleaming at her from the darkness.
She came fully to her senses in an instant.

Before the word was out of her mouth, Ra'dith had landed neatly on the bed astride her and placed a hand—much rougher than before—over Laurel's mouth.

Renata stirred slightly in her sleep.

"Follow me."
Ra'dith had spoken so quietly that the dark, lithe figure was outside the window by the time the command registered on Laurel's ears. She immediately slipped out of bed, but when she got to the window, Ra'dith was nowhere in sight. The hackles on the back of Laurel's neck quivered, and she whirled around to behold Ra'dith grinning at her from above the gable.

"Ra'dith," Laurel spluttered, "What are you doing here? I'm not in any danger, am I?"
Ra'dith extended a hand and helped Laurel up to the roof beside her.

"A dainty in a box is just as easily consumed as one that comes to the table of it's own accord," the mysterious girl replied.

Laurel blinked, "What do you mean?"

"A metal hull is thicker than crepe, but neither are completely impenetrable."

Laurel's head spun; Ra'dith's silver eyes had a truly mesmerizing effect. "Metal? Crepe? That means that you—but how? How could you possibly—"

She was so flustered she could not even get the words out. It did not matter anyway; even if she could ask Ra'dith how she had gotten into the house and why she had spied on their war council, it was unlikely the strange girl would answer her. Laurel shook her head and fell to fidgeting with the tassels and buckles on her tunic.
"Never mind," she insisted defensively to the silent girl, "the plan will work flawlessly. It's worked before. We know what we have to do; all that remains is the execution of it."

Ra'dith still stared at her strangely.
"The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry, and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy," she intoned. "Be wary of placing your confidence in the future; plans do not confirm circumstances that may not yet be. Anyone who tries to change Fate to suit their own means has no thought but for their own agenda."

"That's not the only thing I've been told to be wary of today," Laurel retorted with a sideways glance at the dark figure sitting next to her. "Where do you come from, Ra'dith?"

"I come from Truth."

"What do you mean? Where is Truth? Is that another planet?"

"Where I come from, Truth is taught, and the language is Truth. There are things you are not to know yet, Laurelindolonorina, but you will know in time. I come from among friends."

"What friends, and what is your True purpose here, if you cannot speak other than what is true?"

"I speak what is True, and I am here that Truth may flourish and live and grow stronger."

Laurel rolled her eyes and looked away. "So far all you've managed to do is spook my friends and save my—"

When she turned her head, Ra'dith was already back through the window, in the bedroom. She reached up her strong, weathered hands to help Laurel back down.

Laurel landed safely on the bedroom floor, but did not release Ra'dith's shoulders. "You say you are here so that Truth will live—are you saying that I am Truth?"

"The Truth is not a person, Laiddrynn; you can abide in Truth and bear it, but you cannot be Truth Itself."
Ra'dith gently guided Laurel to her bed and as the Elf-maiden relaxed again, she tucked the sheets around her in a motherly way.

Laurel closed her eyes and sighed deeply. When she opened them again, it was morning.